It never hurts to ask!
Early assistance helps children better access their education
Families may wonder at the development of their newborn or toddler. Some see a clearly defined area of concern while others are wondering about overall progress.
Lakewood School District offers assessment, evaluation and intervention services to help families ensure their child is ready to access their education when public school typically begins in kindergarten.
“Maybe the child is having difficulty articulating words correctly or there is another concern that might impact a child’s ability to access their education,” said Dale Leach, Executive Director of Learning Support Services. “For example, a challenge in speaking will also inhibit a child’s ability to learn to read or participate in class. It is important for that child to get help early for their future learning success.“
Education is a major life function. It often dictates life success as an adult. Addressing concerns as early as possible is key, Leach explained. Families with questions are encouraged to contact Leach at the schools’ administration office by calling 360.652.4500.
“We completely saw results,” said Leaha Boser whose son participated in early intervention. Her son’s limited verbal skills expanded and she sees him developing greater independence. “He is really enjoying school, riding the bus by himself and interacting with his peers,” she explained.
Lakewood offers free assessment and evaluation by contacting the school district with a concern. Anyone may express that concern. In the past, health care professionals, families or others have reached out to school staff with questions. After a thorough evaluation of the concern, those children with needs that impact their ability to access their education qualify for school-provided intervention services.
Then an individualized education program is prepared. Improving academic, social and adaptive skills are typical goals. Some plans may indicate the need for physical or occupational therapy. Others may specify help with cognitive or dexterity concerns. It all depends on what the child’s situation needs. Assistance ranges from a weekly visit to a school-based therapist to coaching families to work with their child on specific exercises or activities at home.
"Early intervention is critical. It's foundational to a student's school success", Kristine Sorensen, Lakewood Developmental Preschool teacher.
Preschool program makes a difference
At age 3, students who qualify will attend the district’s Developmental Preschool program. The majority of students currently attending this program qualify for more than one area of assistance. Some need help with mobility. Some with speech. Still others may have a more than a single challenge to overcome to be able to access their education.
Enrollment is at an all-time high with 31 children attending in 2-day a week program due to COVID. In a normal year, students attend daily in either a morning or afternoon session. School buses provide transportation.
Staff work individually or in small groups with students practicing skills identified in each child’s learning plan. “It all depends on what the child needs,” said teacher Kristine Sorensen. “We may read aloud with some students and practice identifying colors or shapes with others.”
The preschool classroom offers several learning centers to address needs. A toddler-sized kitchen helps fingers and hands better handle items. Easels provide experience holding a paint brush and learning colors. Sensory kits are available for those needing greater ease with various textures. For all children at this age, play is learning, explained Sorensen.
Students also practice useful skills such as the routine of arriving at class - hanging up their coat, finding their desk and greeting their classmates. Other skills include how to ask a question, sit in a small group or wash hands without assistance. All in the goal of improving the child’s ability to access their education by being ready to learn each day. Kindergarten readiness sessions are often added to the spring schedule to ensure a smooth transition in the fall.
“My hope is getting my kids as close to those Kindergarten entry benchmarks as I can,” explained Sorensen. “Early intervention is critical. It’s foundational to a student’s school success.”